Where the Spirit of the Lord resides, there is freedom. There is no one way to do church. There is no one way to do small groups. Many churches have fallen into the trap of thinking that they have found “the” biblical model of ministry. With this belief, they succumb to pride and judgment of others who do not follow their pattern. Yet, as soon as a church camps out in one place, it will find that the Spirit leaves. The Spirit is like the wind. He is always moving. And many times, in fact most of the time, the creative work of the Spirit arises in unexpected ways at the fringes, not the center.
Church leaders and group leaders cannot succumb to the temptation that they must figure out God’s plan from the center and give that plan to the “worker bees” at the fringes. The winds of the Spirit push people to venture into new and creative paths when people start asking new questions, face new challenges and have the freedom to explore generative options. When the Spirit comes, he comes with his wisdom, the gift of applying truth to unique situations, and there is no way that the designated leaders can come up with all of the right plans. The way the Spirit wants to move depends upon the gifts, strengths and skills that everyone brings to the table. In other words, the way that God wants to move in our groups, in our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods will generate through the prayerful creativity of the people in the group. We don’t need experts to provide magical solutions.
Of course this is risky. Most of us would rather have a clear-cut plan provided by the experts. But the best way for a group to serve one another is to let the group talk about it and come up with ideas. The best way to learn to pray together is for the group to contribute different ways of praying. And the best way to reach our friends is to collaborate about ways to build relationships so that they might see Jesus through the group. The Spirit is alive in the group and the Spirit can give us creative ways to manifest his love.
I remember going to dances as a kid and being embarrassed by my two left feet. I would lean up against the wall with the other non-dancers and look smugly upon the risk-takers on the floor, secretly wishing I could share in the fun. The words we spoke to one another were often critical of those dancing. We did not like the fact that they were enjoying themselves.
When I finally learned to dance, my two left feet did not suddenly change. I was, and still am, an awkward dancing partner. The only way I was able to learn was to admit that I did not know how to dance and get out there and try, following the lead of someone who knew the dance steps. Even more than learning the steps, I had to learn to loosen up, to let my body move with the music, following its rhythms. It isn’t always pretty, but it is a lot more fun than watching others!
Making space for everyone to contribute to the creative work of the Spirit is risky, and it is not always pretty. In fact, creativity is usually messy and unpredictable. It’s a bit like the wind, a common biblical metaphor for the Spirit. However, if we take the risk and learn to offer our ideas to one another, knowing that some ideas are better than others, we might be surprised at the organic, spontaneous life that arises.
This article originally appeared here.